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 Post subject: Buglette Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness March 2012
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:39 pm 
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Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Having visited the Garden Route on many occasions over the years, both for work and for pleasure, I’d somehow never stayed at Ebb & Flow in Wilderness. In fact until recently I hadn’t realized that one could stay there. I had the false impression it was a reserve for day visitors and hikers only.

Then my friend and colleague Rookie pointed out that Sanparks was offering a discount for March and we decided to use Ebb & Flow as home base for our business trip. What a good decision that turned out to be - far better than a B&B in the centre of George.

Both the north and south rest camps at Ebb & Flow are a delight with well-maintained gardens and campsites.

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The wooden chalets on stilts provide good views of the river but we had chosen to stay in a family cottage which was spacious and well-equipped. We appreciated the two separate bathrooms each with own shower and the large patio with braai place and wooden table.

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By the way, the top pic below is of the Reception building at Ebb & Flow, not our cottage.

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It was worth forgoing the usual B&B breakfast spread of bacon, eggs and all the trimmings, and so what if we had to drive a few kilometres along a spectacular coastline to and from work each day. The lookout from Dolphin Point on Kaaiman’s Pass is breathtaking although this time we didn’t spot any whales (wrong season) or dolphins.

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We also discovered a back road from Ebb & Flow to Wilderness and this is where our loerie stalking began! (Strictly speaking I should say turaco stalking but somehow the old name has stuck with me). The first time I caught a glimpse of a Knysna loerie in flight, I couldn’t believe that any bird could have feathers so vibrantly red. I wondered whether the poor creature had been shot and was bleeding profusely. My next sighting was during the canopy tour in Tsitsikamma when I caught exasperating glimpses of a pair of loeries as either I or the birds flitted from treetop to treetop. I was desperate to get a photograph but by the time I’d landed on a platform, been unhooked from the harness and yanked off my gloves the birds had vanished. So, I was determined to track one down this time.

When spotting a flash of scarlet in the lush green vegetation alongside the road on our first morning, Rookie brought the car to a screeching halt. Doors were flung wide open and we stumbled out with cameras pointing upwards. Hooray, there were three of them! Frustratingly, we chased phantom shadows with lenses zoomed to max as the darling birds hopped from branch to branch until we were true ‘stiffnecks.’ All we got were a couple of blurred or silhouette shots. The following morning we stalked them again but with not much better results.

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“I swear I’m ready to make loerie pie,” muttered Rookie.
“First you gotta catch one,” I chuckled.
The loeries were probably thinking, ‘Oh no, here comes the damn paparazzi again.’

On the last morning when we were ready to give up the tree was suddenly aflutter with flashes of red. Six or seven loeries were feeding ferociously on their favourite berries. I didn’t know where to focus. Then I spotted two birds kissing and canoodling and managed to get a shot even though the lighting was poor. I also snapped a fluffy juvenile.

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Then to make my day, one of the loeries swooped across the road and settled on a branch for a few seconds. A bit of a stretch for my ‘mik en druk’ but, what do you know I got her in all her glory – lipstick, eye shadow and all!

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What a beauty!

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Stay tuned for more Wilderness adventures tomorrow . . .

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:41 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Now for the next posting. Holding thumbs that my internet connection will go the distance.


The Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park is a mosaic of lakes, estuaries, rivers and beaches set against a picturesque backdrop of verdant forest and mountains. It includes five lakes (Langvlei, Eilandvlei and Rondevlei amongst them) and the Serpentine, a winding strip of water that joins Eilandvlei, or Island Lake, to the Touw River. From just outside the town of Wilderness a boardwalk follows the contour of the river providing an opportunity to get down close to the water.

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There are five hiking trails in this section of the park, four of them named after some of the kingfishers one can see in the area (if you’re lucky) - giant, pied, brown-hooded and half-collared. Unfortunately we only had time to sample one of the trails and walked a kilometer or so down the Brown-hooded kingfisher route. The pathway had recently been cleared and wooden tables and seats provided resting places for walkers. It would’ve been fun to walk to the waterfall but that’ll have to wait for another trip.

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Black-eyed Susans, Morning Glories and pretty pink March lilies brightened the pathways and both butterflies and dragon flies were plentiful.


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_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:02 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
As I predicted, my internet connection did a wobble :evil: but luckily I’d saved half way through. Phew! Anyway, here’s the next bit.


With it being summer, daylight lasted till about quarter to seven so we used the evenings to visit three of the bird hides.

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Malachite Hide provided viewings of cormorants, darters and egrets and darters.

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Due to the low water level at Rondevlei Hide sightings were rather distant but our highlights were a pair of black-winged stilts and three pied kingfishers.

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Most of the action took place inside the hide though. We almost had to dive for cover when a trio of swallows decided to try and scare us away from their nest on the ceiling. They flew straight at us and swooped bare inches above our heads. As far as we could tell the nest was empty so not sure whatt all the fuss was about.

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Our favourite hide was Gallinule Hide but on our first visit we didn’t collect the key from the nearby Fairy Knowe Hotel so had to be satisfied with a peep around the sides of the wooden hut. Early the next morning we were back, key firmly in hand.

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“Wouldn’t it be great if we actually saw a purple gallinule at Gallinule Hide,” quipped Rookie. After that she was determined to find us one – and she did. What an exquisite bird! You’ll have to see Rookie’s TR for a decent pic though.

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There were plenty of yellow-billed ducks, Egyptian geese and nest-building coots to keep us entertained.

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That’s it for today. More next time about other distractions Rookie and I found in the Wilderness.

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:47 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Rookie’s eyes were in fine bird-spotting form and on consecutive evenings, while driving home from the hides, she picked out two buzzards sitting aloft on telephone poles. Unlike our cruel and restless loerie friends, they sat perfectly still and posed for us. Only problem on the first evening was that the light was fading fast so we had to snap our pics of this magnificent jackal buzzard quickly.

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The following evening we headed home a little earlier so the light was better. To get close enough to our second raptor with my tiny camera I had to do a bit of bundu bashing. After wading through spongy, knee-high grass I ended up virtually underneath the bird. For a minute or two those yellow beady eyes focused on me and I thought I might be on the menu for dinner. We’re not sure if this is forest, steppe or juvenile jackal buzzard. Can anyone help with an ID please? I’ve posted several shots so that you can see all sides.

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A regular stopping point on our way home, recommend to us by a local resident, was a concrete bridge over the gravel road coming back from Rondevlei Hide where we saw coots, swamp hens and little grebes. Would you believe that Rookie also spotted two fish eagles, way off in the distance? Hopefully one of her pics will come out for her TR.

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Another special sighting was a multi-coloured sunbird – a greater double-collared sunbird, we think. Please correct us if we’re wrong.

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These tiny swee waxbills were a challenge to capture on camera but after putting our stalking skills to good use we finally had some success.

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Meandering amongst the farmlands we came across a couple of Amur falcons sitting on wires or fences as well as a gorgeous black-shouldered kite.

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Must confess the first photo below is a cheat pic as it was taken at a bird rehabilitation centre but I simply adore those eyes and couldn’t resist posting it.

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Sorry but I'll have to take a break now as I'm spending a long weekend at Agulhas National Park. More next week, I promise. Take care till then.

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:47 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Now you may be wondering what pictures of elephants are doing in this trip report.

Yes, there are still wild elephants roaming the forests (as confirmed in Gareth Patterson’s book ‘The Secret Elephants’) but these were not the ones we saw. Finishing work a tad early on the last afternoon (I tell you, I had to drag Rookie out of the office) we dashed through to the Knysna Elephant Park, a sanctuary for twelve orphaned elephants.

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After feeding the ever-hungry ellies by hand with fruit and vegetables, we had the incredible opportunity of interacting with these amazing animals. We walked amongst them and got close enough to pat and stroke them. So incredible to feel that skin up close and so much softer than I imagined.

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Even though these ellies have all been rescued from different reserves they have bonded to form a herd. Twenty-four year old Sally, born with only one tusk, acts as matriarch and keeps things in order. When a new baby is brought in, normally because its mom was the victim of poachers, the older ellies take care of it.

Teenage Mashudu was happy for me to scratch him behind the ears. And Thato, the smallest ellie, entertained us with an attempt at a summersault. What special moments!

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_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:47 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Hidden Treasures

One of the things to look out for at Ebb & Flow according to the Sanparks website is the Knysna seahorse. I’ve no idea how one sets about finding such a creature other than donning a wetsuit and plunging into a lake armed with a powerful underwater searchlight, but I was fortunate enough to see a couple of them some years back. They were cavorting in a glass tank (at William Smith’s Featherbed Reserve) and that finally proved to me that seahorses do in fact exist. Previously I’d thought they were only to be found in fairytales. I pictured them snow white and large enough to carry a small child, or perhaps a mermaid, on their backs. To my surprise I discovered the tiny creatures only grow to about ten centimeters. How such a fragile being can survive in the vastness of a lake is one of nature’s many mysteries, however, the Knysna sea horse is on the endangered list.

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Otters can apparently be seen in the Garden Route lakes and streams hence the name for the Otter Trail. Unfortunately the only otter we saw was this stuffed specimen at Reception, along with a honey badger, something else we didn’t observe.

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We did have one sighting of a shy bushbuck though. It appeared ghostlike one evening as we were braaiing on our patio (delicious rump steak from our favourite butchery in George – Van Rensburg’s). I did attempt a photo but all that appeared on an otherwise pitch back image were two green hexagonal-shaped eyes.

Something I wanted to find during our visit was a pansy shell with its pretty five-petal flower design. I’m told, the shell is actually the skeleton of a sea urchin and is found in the shallow lagoons and bays along the Garden Route. This creature is born male and later transforms into a female enabling it to further the species. Another of nature’s amazing tricks! When alive the urchin is reddish-purple in colour and its body is covered in short fur-like spines. Time was short so we didn’t have the chance to comb the beach for these shells but hopefully I’ll find one another day. Apparently Plettenberg Bay is the place to find them.

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Pics from the internet

Apparently, the area is also of archaeological interest and the Oakhurst shelter is one of the oldest caves excavated in the country. Forty Khoisan skeletons (adults and children) were discovered here buried at different depths. Pottery shards as well as hippo, buffalo, duiker and steenbok bones were found here too. The Ebb & Flow shelter in the northern camp was used by both the Khoi and San and two skeletons plus various implements were uncovered here. In the 1800s the cave was excavated for guano.

We were reluctant to leave this part of the world so well portrayed by Daleen Mathée in her wonderful books ‘Circles in the Forest’ and ‘Fiela’s Child’ (or in Afrikaans ‘Kringe in ‘n Bos’ and ‘Fiela se Kind’). I would miss looking out my window each morning to see a family of guinea fowl scratching for breakfast.

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Also the lapwing and guinea fowl conferences that regularly took place on the lawns.

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Next time, I’d probably book one of the forest cabins tucked away from all but the occasional hang glider drifting above. Ebb & Flow is already on my list of places to go back to.

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And of course, I’ll be out to stalk more loeries!

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_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Unread postPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:19 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Thanks VVV, Hotshot,Baffers, Pumbaa, Hilda, MM and Threedogs for the positive feedback. Very kind of you!
:gflower:

Well, stalking loeries was fun but something exciting happened yesterday, bird-wise that is.

Rookie dragged me off to see the Little Crake at Clovelly. For those that haven’t heard, this bird has probably never been seen south of the equator – and may never be seen here again. The little lady has apparently got herself good and lost. No wonder she’s causing such a fuss. People are coming from far and wide just to get a glimpse of her.

She’s much smaller than the Black Crake and we probably wouldn’t have spotted her pecking away amongst the reeds without help. A guy who’d flown down from Pretoria for the day to see the little lady (would you believe) pointed her out. She looked perfectly at home in the Clovelly pond although it’s a matter of speculation whether she’ll winter here or still attempt to make the long migration flight up north. For the present she’s causing quite a stir amongst birders.

Pics aren’t great, just too far away for my little happy snappy camera, but should give you some idea of what the little crake looks like. There are superb pics on the bird thread.


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_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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